Each day in December I have been sharing my thoughts and heart for what this season means to me. I hope you have enjoyed the posts and my new book Twelve Days.
After each post and also in each chapter of the new book – I include a song you may or may not have ever heard – that I hope you have also enjoyed or perhaps pondered the lyrics more deeply.
Today is a new day. Yesterday was the winter solstice. It was the darkest day, the longest night. Every day this fall leading to yesterday got a bit darker. I certainly felt it. Daylight savings for sure was a doozy. Darkness.
But today? Today is 12-22-22. This is a day things change and little by little the sky gets brighter…
Christmas is coming – over 2000 years ago, Angels broke through heaven (“and a great light shone around them”) declaring there should be peace on this Earth and goodwill toward men.
Peace. Many don’t have it. Many seek it. Many wonder when it will be coming.
Soldiers are across the world today protecting our peace and freedoms – Christmas looks different for them. Think of them and the families that wish they were together this week.
Soldiers like Charles – who joined the army to fight in the war.
Oldest of 6 children, known as Charley by his family.
Two years before joining the military, Charley’s mom died in a tragic fire. Her clothing started on fire, her husband tried to extinguish it, but she had already suffered severe burns.
Charley’s dad suffered such severe burns himself trying to save his wife, that he was unable to even make it to the funeral. He even had to grow a beard to hide his own burns.
Charley’s dad went into a depression and feared that he would need significant counseling. Can you imagine watching your most treasured love one burn alive? Horrific.
If that wasn’t bad enough, Charley’s dad received a letter not long after his son enlisted, that he had been shot through his left shoulder with the bullet exiting the right – Charley had avoided being paralyzed by only an inch.
On Christmas Day, there sat Charley’s dad – a 57-year-old widow with 6 kids. He struggled with significant dissonance in his own heart; losing a wife, now taking care of a severely wounded son, looking at the world so full of hate, injustice, division and war, and yet wanted and needed to find the glory in the season.
He wrote in a journal, “How inexpressibly sad are all holidays. I can make no record of these days. Better leave them wrapped in silence. Perhaps someday God will give me peace. ‘A merry Christmas’ say the children, but that is no more for me.”
Later, he heard some church bells and carolers singing of “peace on Earth and goodwill toward men”. These words seemed to mock the situation of the world, the government, leadership (or the lack of it), local/national/global communities, and life in general.
Maybe it feels the same for you too…
The world continues to turn; we wake up, work, spend only a few spare moments with people we care about, go to sleep, and start over again. Something just feels different this year.
Does it feel like it is just a repeat every day? Do you look at this season and think – it is all just bah-humbug? Do you look at our country, our government, our communities, our relationships – as something that is just disappointing?
Maybe you are torn between different families this holiday season, or it just does not feel as magical as it did when you were a kid.
Then – there are the children starving around the world, kids are being trafficked and abused, refugees trying to find safety and peace, disease consuming lives of many here and afar, war never ceases, threats of terrorism continue to grow…when does it get better?
You could bow your head in despair like Charley’s dad did. After he heard those carolers, he literally said, “there is no peace on Earth. For hate is strong, and mocks this song of peace on Earth goodwill toward men.”
BUT THEN – the bells grew louder, the song got stronger, his heart grew softer, his soul shone brighter, and he lifted his head….something had stirred.
Then he said, “God is NOT dead, nor doth He sleep; the wrong shall fail, the right prevail, with peace on Earth, goodwill to men.”
Charley’s dad was famed poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.
He wrote the poem “I heard the bells on Christmas Day” in 1863.
Charley was a union soldier of the Civil War who joined the war without his father’s blessing. He wrote his dad a letter from afar saying that he wanted to lay his life down for his country. In that letter, he wrote, “I feel it to be my first duty to do what I can for my country and I would willingly lay down my life for it if it would be of any good.”
Friends: Jesus was born into a dark and broken world, made it His first duty to show us love, how to live, and how to get back from whence we came. He willingly laid down his life for us – not wondering if it would be of any good, but knowing it was the ONLY way good would destroy evil.
Maybe you feel like Jesus is in a galaxy far, far away.
Maybe you feel He doesn’t care, doesn’t hear you, doesn’t know you – but He does.
This season is about God our Father, thanking Him for the many blessings He bestows upon us, including the greatest gift ever given to mankind – His one and only Son, that whoever will just simply pause and quiet their hearts, believe in Him, and want to know Him – will never have to worry that their own eternity would not be full of peace and goodwill.
Come – let us adore Him. Come – let Him speak to you. Come – He is waiting.
Take the gift.
Don’t let your hardened heart not hear the choir singing…your eyes not see the light shining…or your inner soul and spirit not confidently know that the everlasting Holy One is calling you back to Him.
My Christmas wish is that you also find peace in your heart and homes this holiday season.
I wish the same for me.
And if you don’t have it right now – don’t lose hope or sight that the One that came that first Christmas morning, will be coming again – to take us back to a place where there are no more tears, no fears, no fighting, no hurting, no crying. Fix your eyes on Him.
Hear the bells.
This season is about knowing Him more, loving Him more, and becoming more like Him.
“Glory to God in the Highest, and on Earth peace, good will toward men” (Luke 2:14).
Please PLEASE listen to the song in the first comment below. Maybe you will hear it a different way now that you know the story. THEN read the post after that. There’s more to the story above. You will read a bit more history of what happened that fateful day in the Longfellow household.
Light is coming.